By Evan Short

THE INLA has denied any of their members are involved in criminality, accusing Sinn Féin of orchestrating a campaign of misinformation.
A spokesman for the Irish Republican Social Party (IRSP) said they had tried to meet Gerry Kelly over his claims reported in last week’s North Belfast News but their requests had not been met.
The MLA called on the INLA to clarify their links to an individual who was operating a drug extortion gang in Newtownabbey after moving to the area from the New Lodge.
He said the man was a former member of ONH who may have links to the Official Republican Movement.
However, in a statement released to the North Belfast News the IRSP rubbished the claims.
A spokesman said they had met with the INLA who were adamant their members were not involved in criminality.
“On Thursday 23rd November simultaneous statements were made by Sinn Féin spokespeople in Belfast and Derry, alleging INLA involvement in criminal activities including extortion and a related series of so called punishment shootings.
“Speaking in the North Belfast News, Gerry Kelly specifically cited the criminal behaviour of an unnamed individual, insinuating links to both Óglaigh na hÉireann and the INLA while challenging the Republican Socialist Movement to issue clarification on the matter, a second almost identical statement (while less specific) was made by Cllr Paul Fleming to Derry and Strabane council and carried in the Derry Journal.
“Given both accusations and indeed Gerry Kelly’s challenge to the Republican Socialist Movement, the IRSP would like to put the following on record.
“Firstly our party has attempted to contact both Gerry Kelly and Cllr Paul Fleming with a view to securing clarification on their respective accusations; despite furnishing both parties with contact details neither has made themselves available for comment.
“A further request was made by the IRSP to constituency workers of Gerry Kelly’s around the identity of the individual cited in the North Belfast News, thus far Sinn Fein have been unable to provide us with specific details of any persons.
“Furthermore, the IRSP can confirm that contacts have been made with the Irish National Liberation Army in relation to Gerry Kelly’s request for confirmation on criminal activity in North Belfast.
“The INLA have denied absolutely any connection with individuals or groupings involved in criminality and are happy to state unequivocally that they will not stand over any persons involved in the type of behaviour cited in the North Belfast News.
“For our part, the IRSP feel that for reasons of basic prudence we cannot reasonably comment on an individual whose identity cannot so much as disclosed by those making what can now only be considered as broad stroke allegations.
“We furthermore find it disconcerting that two virtually identical accusations were made against the Republican Socialist Movement in Derry and Belfast on the same day.
“The choreographed and unsupported nature of Sinn Féin’s allegations in this case again raises the historical spectre of a Sinn Féin smear campaign against the IRSP.
“Since our inception Sinn Féin have sought to marginalise the IRSP by unsupported references to “INLA criminality”, a recent resurgence in support for our party combined with pressures to clamp down on alternative republican opinions since the so called fresh start agreement are what has truly given rise to these unsupported allegations.
“The IRSP unequivocally condemns drugs dealing and indeed any behaviour which degrades the lives of working class people, our door is open to any persons affected by criminality and intimidation from whatever quarter.”

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